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Walking Together: Findings on the East Village Rock Tour

Village Preservation has been offering an East Village Rock Tour, which has met with great enthusiasm and large groups gathering to learn more about the history of Rock ‘n Roll in the East Village.

Come along for a virtual walk with us as we share some of the things we’ve learned together on this tour — with a peek into the unplanned moments that make walking tours with Village Preservation such a fulfilling way to start an evening out in our neighborhoods.

Just One Stop: Fillmore East

One of the sites on Part 2 of our East Village Rock ‘n Roll Tour is commemorated by a plaque installed by Village Preservation in 2014 — the Fillmore East. When checking out who played at the Fillmore East, one may wonder “who didn’t play here?” Whether it was Dizzy Gillespie or Sly and the Family Stone, Santana or Elton John, rock legends graced the stage and brought rock ‘n roll culture along with its ever evolving music to the East Village.

Many recordings at the Fillmore are cherished by rock fans.

Village Preservation has written about this historic location, and you can learn a lot from these past posts about Fillmore East. Also, we are honored that our historic image archive includes photos taken by the great Fred W. McDarrah capturing what life was like at this epic rock venue.

American musician Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970) performs on stage at the Fillmore East, New York, New York.
Photo from the Village Preservation Image Archive
© Estate of Fred W. McDarrah. Our special thanks to the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah for their support of GVSHP.

On our tour, we discuss the architecture of the building alongside the historic performances that occurred in the building. Here are just a few of the facts one will learn at this stop on our tour:

  • Built in 1925 by Harrison G. Wiseman, this structure has housed various venues including the Commodore Theater, Loew’s movie theater, and the Village Theater.
    The architectural design of this building is most similar to the Neoclassical style, occasionally referenced as Adamesque as well.
  • Established by Bill Graham, the Fillmore East opened to the public on March 8, 1968.
  • Jimi Hendrix gave one of his most memorable performances here as well. On New Year’s Eve of 1969, Hendrix was recorded live at the Fillmore and performed an outstanding rendition of his song ”Machine Gun.” Also of note are the opening and closing performances at this venue. This included one of the most well-known performances of The Allman Brothers Band in when the venue closed on June 27, 1971. Lasting for over seven hours into the morning, they were the perfect act to close out the last night of the Fillmore.

Some of photos from our historic image archive used on the tour give insight beyond Rock ‘n Roll, like this McDarrah photo of the Fillmore’s marquee announcing a multimedia presentation from Dr. Timothy Leary entitled “The Death of the Mind.” Did you know that you can purchase prints of this and other Fred McDarrah photos, with proceeds benefiting Village Preservation? It’s a great way to get a little piece of East Village history into your home.

View across Second Avenue (near E 6th St) of a crowd of people under the marquee for the Fillmore East, which advertises ‘Dr Timothy Leary, The Death of the Mind,’ New York, New York, September 16, 1966. A multimedia presentation hosted by Leary, the piece explored the effects of LSD. Also visible is the awning of the Central Plaza Hall and Ratner’s restaurant and deli.
Photo from the Village Preservation Image Archive
© Estate of Fred W. McDarrah. Our special thanks to the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah for their support of Village Preservation.

Discoveries Along the Walk

Along with the planned points of interest of the walking tour, part of the fun of gathering together to walk through history are the unscripted moments that occur, whether it’s stumbling on something that one hasn’t noticed in the neighborhood before or stopping to appreciate a site that is typically in the background of our daily hustle. It’s nice to stop and experience our neighborhoods communally, which builds all of our knowledge and understanding of the places where we live and work every day. In this way we remind one another of the places that make our neighborhoods unique and worth preserving.

MIDDLE CHURCH

As we approached the Fillmore East at the most recent walking tour, we noticed a stunning backdrop — Middle Church’s location that was decimated by a fire back in 2022. This gave us a moment to discuss the impact of Middle Church and Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph. D. on the community. Recipients of a 2022 Village Award, this congregation and its icononic leader are planning to rebuild. This was an extemporaneous opportunity to share news from the neighborhood and find out the impact of this important institution on locals and the community at large.

MOSAIC MAN

Another impromptu point of interest is the light pole decorated by Mosaic Man Jim Power, on the corner of St. Mark’s and 2nd Avenue. Participants shared their insights about this Villager’s work with one another throughout the tour. Seeing this light post even inspired participants to discuss plans for their own, personal walking tours of the light poles that Mosaic Man has created across our neighborhoods.

A closer look at the light pole at St. Marks and 2nd Ave.
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WALKING DOWN EAST 11th STREET

A part of Part 1 of the East Village Rock Tour includes a two block walk along East 11th street where Village Preservation’s offices are located. During that walk (East 11th Street between 2nd Avenue and Avenue A) numerous participants noticed things they had never seen before, even if they frequented the block. Here is a quick tour of the highlights noticed by our tour participants:

11th St Community Garden as seen on Google Maps

Numerous participants noticed the 11th St Community Garden tucked in the middle of the block. The vegetation of the garden provided a cool moment as we passed by the gate on these hot summer days. A few participants noted the times that the garden is open to the public and plan to return to check it out. Also noted was the little free library at the garden.

East Side Community High School is a public school at 420 East 12th Street (the entrance seen here is on East 11th st.)
Here in the Google Maps view of the school, one can see the photo exhibit currently on display outside.

Across the street from the garden is East Side Community High School, which has a photography display next to its entrance on East 11th street. Just one of the many opportunities to witness art in public places in the East Village.

The turquoise minaret of Islamic Council of America (Madina Masjid). (photo credit: Shabnaj Chowdhury)

One tour participant noted that she had never noticed the minaret at the top of the Islamic Council of America’s (Madina Masjid) building before going on the tour. The Islamic Council of America was originally established at 195 East 4th Street on October 1, 1976. In order to accomodate more space for worshipers, the current location at 401 East 11th Street, New York NY 10009, was purchased on March 26, 1979 (more on the mosque, one of the oldest in the city, here and here). This is what we saw as we passed on our tour, giving walkers additional insight into the community and their neighbors.

Join us and Let Us Know What You Want

There is one more chance to join us for the East Village Rock Tour: Part 2 this fall. After that, we will retire these tours until the Spring of 2023. Want more? Let us know by emailing us a programs@villagepreservation.org.

We have ideas about how we can make these tours virtual or begin scavenger hunt competitions. Plus, we plan on creating even more Rock ‘n Roll and music inspired tours. We’ll expand into the West Village, NoHo, and go deeper into the East Village music scene. With a topic so rich in history, we’re excited to continue to bring you programs that build community while celebrating the cultural impact of our neighborhoods. We look forward to your ideas about possible future programs as we continue to deliver high quality free programming, in-person and virtually, throughout the Fall months.

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